Special to the Herald
NEW BRITAIN - Kyle Bennett Jr. never imagined heâ€™d be performing on national television when he started dancing at age 11.
Now 22, the New Britain-based hip-hop dancer has found himself living out his dreams as a top 10 male contestant in Foxâ€™s 15th season of â€śSo You Think You Can Dance.â€ť
He competes for a place in the top 5 tonight at 8 on Fox (WTIC-TV, Channel 61).
â€śItâ€™s surreal,â€ť Bennett said in a phone interview. Heâ€™d just arrived at Los Angeles to prepare to compete for a Top 5 spot on Monday. â€śI havenâ€™t even really processed it. I canâ€™t believe Iâ€™m here.â€ť
Bennett has trained for this since the day he asked his friend to teach him the wave dance, back in sixth grade.
Lacking even minimal professional training, Bennett spent his childhood and teenage years seeking informal lessons wherever he could. Heâ€™d ask fellow dancers for help and jump at opportunities to participate in workshops, dance battles and groups.
It didnâ€™t take long for dance to become Bennettâ€™s â€śentire life,â€ť providing a breath of fresh air to turbulent situations including his previously rocky relationship with his parents and his familyâ€™s constant moving from town to town.
Dancing, he said, made him feel like a superhero or an anime character.
â€śIâ€™ve always had food on the table and clothes on my back. Financially, my family lived a pretty stable life. But my mom and dad werenâ€™t together. I left my dadâ€™s house to live with my mom in New Britain so I could dance with my friends. Dance has been an escape for me,â€ť he explained.
In New Britain, Bennett stayed busy. He became part of a dance group called Calligraphy, rehearsing and touring with it. He also picked up photography and made plans to pursue acting.
Additionally, he landed on Season 14 of â€śSo You Think You Can Dance,â€ť making it to the top 20 before being sent home. Bennett admitted that the experience took a toll on his confidence, but it eventually pushed him to work harder and to audition again for Season 15.
Now, Bennett has his eyes set on the future. He hopes to one day dance in commercials and movies. If he wins â€śSo You Think You Can Dance,â€ť he wants to make sure his family can share the fruits of his labor with him.
He says that on tonightâ€™s show, heâ€™ll be doing a contemporary dance - something out of his comfort zone but, nonetheless, exciting for him.
â€śItâ€™d be a dream come true to make it to the live shows,â€ť Bennett said. â€śIt would really propel me forward to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish. It also means to me that this is just the beginning. Just because I got here doesnâ€™t mean that I can be comfortable. I need to step it up. I just got to a new level and I need to be ready for that final boss fight.â€ť
Kristina Vakhman can be reached at email@example.com.